I'm ready to go!

But I've got some questions about what to expect and how to enjoy the performance the most. 

> Read our FAQ below.


Wear whatever you like! You'll find many of your fellow audience members dressed very casually and comfortably, and some will have decided to put on something fancy for a special night. At our most festive concerts — like "Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral" and "A Baroque New Year's Eve at the Opera" — people sometimes get really dressed up to add to the festive feel and participate in the fun. But there are not expectations. Come as you are!

Did you know that the reason why some musicians dress in "white tie and tails" is because, about a century ago, it was the musicians who had to clean up their act. The audiences were dressed like royalty compared to the musicians. The instrumentalists and singers started to wear what the audiences were wearing. Eventually, the crowds started dressing more sensibly, but the orchestra and chorus members got stuck in the fancy concert garb. So, nowadays, the fancy dress of musicians is something of a reversal of how it used to be.

If you really want to know more about the music, some of our concerts have short (30-minute) "Insights" that begin about 45 minutes before the performance starts. Those are great opportunities to learn lots about the music before you hear it.

Our program booklets — both print versions and those that you can view and read on your smartphones during the performance — have some great "program notes" that dig even deeper than the "Insights" do. And you can read those even after the concert is over, the next day, or even several days later when you have time to find out more about what you enjoyed.

But some people love to just listen with their ears and hearts and "figure out" the music without that backbone of the history about it. That's a perfect way to enjoy the program on your own terms.

Yes, it's true that much of the music we perform — maybe even most of it — is sung in German, or Italian, or French, or Latin. Whenever that's the case, we provide all of the words in translation. You can follow along in the program booklet or online on your smartphone.

Here in the U.S. since we generally don't understand those languages, why don't we perform the music translated into English? Well, believe it or not, part of what makes music sound French, or sound Italian, or sound German is the language itself. So singing it in a language different than how it was composed — in other words, singing it in an English translation — usually results in a compromise that just doesn't sound so good. So, we think that the best solution is to follow along by reading the English translation while you're hearing the original sound of the music, using the sounds of the original language.

Several decades ago, a movement began in the classical music industry to perform music on the instruments that were used during a composer's lifetime. It is the use of these beautiful and, in most cases, truly antique and priceless instruments that brings the most unique quality to these performances.

Instruments have evolved and grown over the centuries, mostly because composers would present new challenges to instrumentalists, and therefore to those who built their instruments. When a composer like Bach or Beethoven would write the most difficult passages that would tax the limits of an instrument's responsiveness, within a decade or so instrument builders found a way to accommodate the challenges. One of the most exciting sounds we hear from these "early instruments", however, is the inherent tension during the most climactic moments in a musical work.

Besides, it's just really cool to hear the same sounds that people heard the first time the music was performed. It's a really interesting throwback.

We have a page all about that. Basically, we pass along to our audience whatever our concert venues require. But the most important thing is that you are in control whenever rules don't specify required actions or protocols.

Ah, you're on to something there! You've probably heard that, in the classical music business, ticket sales cover only about 35% of the costs. That leaves organizations like ours with a lot to raise elsewhere. It's a challenge, but it's worth the hard work and effort when we see how much people love the music!

If you can help us out, maybe you'd consider a one-time contribution or a monthly donation. 

Address

P.O. Box 421986
San Francisco CA 94142

Contacts

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Phone: +1 (415) 621 7900 
Fax: +1 (415) 621 7920